Gender Stereotypes in Mass Media

How Media Portray Gender Stereotypes: Introduction

Do you ever wonder why Tide and Vanish commercials always display women doing the laundry and cleaning bathrooms instead of men? Or why Range Rover commercials typecast men as adventure lovers and always include a group of male friends driving the cars instead of women? The answer is quite simple: women, not men are expected to do housework and clean and it is more socially acceptable for a man to go out for a reckless adventure. But do we accuse the advertisements of creating these social standards or do we accuse our social standards of creating these advertisements? This question links back to a broader controversy regarding the actual factors that are in charge of shaping gender roles today. Socially, gender roles are defined as  job performed by somebody, or the set of behaviors and procedures that people embrace according to their social status, according to the performance that a set expects from a member in a certain situation or context”.

Of the many factors on how we interpret men and women, media is the most prevalent and one of the most influential. According to a mass communication scholar, Elisabeth Neumann, when people have been exposed to media for quite some time, the influence of it on them is gradual, but very hard to escape today as we are continuously being exposed to numerous forms of media at the same time. Although parenting and society are seen as major factors in shaping gender roles today, media still plays a significant role as it perpetuates male dominance, it promotes gender stereotyping and it becomes a tool for restricting an individual’s perception of possibilities beyond the norm.

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Media bombards the society with the idea that men are the cultural standards by perpetuating male dominance. Moreover, the media is always seen to be promoting male chauvinism by giving its audience a misleading representation of the real proportions of the men and women in the media industry. According to Wood, media always distorts our perception that there are significantly more men than women, the research cited prime-time television that often show three times as many men as women. The statistics show that women newscasters make up 16% only and the story of men are likely to be included ten times more often than those about women. This is also seen in the case of children programming where males outnumber female by two to one.

According to research, it is also evident that in terms of American lifestyle, the media also presents a negative version of cultural life in which according to what media portrays that white guys make up half of the population, that ladies are less in number may be because not more than 10% live beyond 35. It also portrays that majority of ladies as being good-looking, very thin, passive and only concerned with the relationship while men are described as more powerful, ambitious and only occupy themselves with crucial business deals, exciting ventures and rescuing dependent ladies, whom sadly, they then sexually abuse.  According to the research, African females also suffer the same fate when they are featured in films as compared to their white counterparts who are portrayed to be more superior.

Another instance supporting the idea that media plays an essential role in shaping gender roles in our societies today is evident with the prime television where more men are used compared to women when the majority of people are believed to be viewing the broadcast. Generally, media still present both men and women in stereotyped thus limiting the perception of human possibilities. Also, the fact that some of the film displayed by the media portray women only as young, thin, beautiful, passive, dependent and always incompetent whose main energies are improving their look and taking care of family and individuals while men are depicted to be active, adventurous, powerful and sexually aggressive. In view of these factors, media should now change the broadcasting style where men are given more privileges than women and start focusing on how to promote gender equity where both male and female are given fair treatment in terms of their capabilities and not gender.  Media being very influential  in the society, it should be taken seriously so that it can become a tool for positive change rather than a stage for promoting unhealthy gender imbalance in the society. In addition, care should always be taken on how the media misrepresents gender so that it does not distort how a person sees one’s self and perceive it as desirable.

Disney films have accordingly tended to provide scenarios that show women are more concerned on shallow issues such as their appearances whereas men are more involved with hard work and decision making. According to Lee,  it is revealed that Disney media have an impact on its young audience such as the Korean immigrant children with the idea that the roles of women in the society are of less significance compared to those of men. Again, the research showed that the interpretation of women about marriage is always tangled with their perceptions of gender in which men should always accomplish their goal based on their own desires and needs. Therefore, women face substantial hindrance in their marriages.  However, through the interview, the young women acknowledged that there is part of reality in women that could not be explained. Therefore, they tried to account for the reality by identifying a person’s preference, abilities, desires and natural disposition as essential factors which influenced an individual search for a goal or career. This backs up the point of view that media play a role in shaping gender roles in today’s society. Disney film has a powerful influence on making young viewers believe that males, like the Disney heroes, are the cultural standards. Besides this, despite their effort no one is ready to listen to them, thanks to the media that has promoted this culture. Sex differentiation occurs as children learn to be feminine or masculine. Gender roles is the behavior that women and men are supposed to engage. A child learns about sex-appropriate behavior through a set of direct instruction, modeling, punishment, and reward. The media provides behavioral models to individuals and hence have the capacity to play a role in gender role socialization.

Impacts of Gendered Stereotypes in the Media

The use of gendered stereotypes in the media also propagates gender role as men and women have typical stereotype attached to them. For instance, in research study by Lee it reveals that Disney film typecasts main character experience more experience more  freedom and power in the society compared to the female characters. For example, in the Disney films the prince is allowed to choose their brides, whereas the female characters like Jasmine are not given the chance to choose the groom. In fact, females are portrayed as the ones who are always sacrificing, they are just there to be seen and not to be heard.  This is evident when Mulan takes bold steps as she defies the odd and had to disobey the laws just to follow her dream of being a warrior since she is stereotyped by the society in a traditional female role. The Lee study makes us realize that the life stories in the Disney films also support the thesis that media play a role in shaping gender role in the society because through the study we realize that even the young girls in Lee’s study could recognize how male in Disney films used marriage as a way to elevate their social status. While when it came to women they were not given the opportunity to even make a decision or choice on their own even when it comes to making a sensitive issue of marriage.

Print media also influences women’s perception that in order to conform with their role as beautiful and healthy women, they must control their weight through diet so as to look like models in the magazines and so as to become socially acceptable. The magazine also influences their male audience to do exercise in order to be masculine. According to Agliata and Tantleff-Dunn, female –targeted magazines are full of many more diet-related adverts and article. This is parallel to their findings that there are significantly more exercise and weight lifting ads in male journals.

Effects of Media on Individuals in Society

Media fixes certain norms for an individual in society and these norms restricts an individual’s perception about possibilities beyond norms. According to the Tinker Bell episodes, the Disney producers are telling the audience that whereas characters like Zarina and Periwinkle managed to do male roles like ship captain or worker, these behaviors are not always associated with female characters and they would most likely get into the trouble. He presents in his film review how media such as Disney films can restrict one’s insight of possibilities beyond the acceptable ways. The young audience is likely to empathize with the female characters and wrap the wrap the viewing with a moral lesson suggesting that trouble occurs with rebellious female. This is a strong indicator how media negatively shapes female gender roles thereby, restricting either gender to do a duty that he or she is not obliged to do.

Counter Argument One

In contrast, the media does not play a significant part in shaping gender roles in today’s society as parenting has a greater impact on shaping it. Parents are always the principal influence on the gender role development since they are the first socialization agents a child will socialize with. Parents can teach stereotype through different means and actions. This will start from the moment they learn whether it is a girl or a boy, moving to decorating their rooms pink and blue and also the way they dress them up. In his article, Joseph cites a Davis quote that some parents allow their kids a very little TV or even no TV at all which he asserts as great ideas.  In his arguments, he points out that although there is widespread of media and possible exposure of children that might influence the shaping of gender roles, the foremost factor to consider is the parenting style so that the children do not absorb the stuff from media mindlessly. However, this idea has been refuted by some people because there are some cultures that encourage girls to be overweight as this is seen a sign of being wealthy. And the parents in these regions raise their children on that. However, the moment they were exposed to western media, their cultural values changed including eating disorders that also changed. According to the lifestyle effect, mass media is a major factor influencing how someone tries to fit and how they socialize with others. The introduction of internet and Television to those who have attained majority age would spend an awful amount of time being exposed to the media and this changes the socializing influence.

Counter Argument Two

Media does not play a significant role in shaping traditional gender roles as it is simply a reflection of what society has previously formed. Media basically reflects what is going on the society, which whatever that goes on in the society will be exposed in all forms of media. For instance, during the world war two, manufacturing companies were left without workers. So in order to curb this, the government had to team up with the media and the women organization just to convince that their country needs them to work. This was followed by the media presenting slogans like Rosie the River who is a cultural icon representing all those women in war in manufacturing firms.

Most people have refuted claims that media basically reflects what’s going on in the society and that whatever that goes on in the society will be exposed in all media. They claim that unlike in the past, we no longer get singular, straightforward message about gender. For example, ideal types of men and female identities, instead media offers range of issues that may not necessarily reflect the general beliefs of a particular targeted group and instead offers wide range of things that we can borrow even if it does not reflect what is culturally accepted by an individual’s society. In addition, the media portrays career women to be individuals who are not appreciated by society because they receive little or no attention. Most of this women have titles such as doctor or lawyer, they are described in their responsibilities a wives, mothers, and homemakers. Magazines also play a vital role in enhancing ladies role in society by focusing on their lives.

In conclusion, from what has been discussed above, there is no doubt that the media has a vital part towards shaping gender roles in society today as it provides the audience with the idea that men are the cultural standards and only does this by perpetuating male dominance. The media also encourages biases in typecasting of men towards more important duties over those of women. Media also limits the perception of an individual on the possibilities beyond the norms especially the young developing minds in the next generations who may be having some talents but are continually suppressed by the biases of the media.  In order to avoid this media biases to female, the media should stop focusing on males much but instead embrace gender equity where even women are given opportunity in the media industries. Women should also come out and fight for their space in the male dominated society and challenge the perception that they are just sex object, passive and dependent but instead come out and compete with men in terms of capabilities and competencies. At the end of it females can achieve the gender equity goals, just as was seen in the Disney films where young women acknowledged that there are certain inner reality in women that could not be explained. Therefore, they tried to account for the reality by identifying an individual preference, abilities, desires and natural disposition as essential aspects which influenced an individual search for an objective or occupation. Moreover, media being very influential in the society, it should be taken seriously so that it can become a tool for positive change rather than a stage for promoting unhealthy gender imbalance in the society. In addition, care should always be taken on how the media misrepresents gender so that it does not distort how a person sees one’s self and perceive it as desirable.

The media should also now change the broadcasting style where men are given more privileges than women and start focusing on how to promote gender equity where both male and female are given fair treatment in terms of their capabilities and not gender Finally, the contents played in the media should be gender balanced and geared towards promoting gender equity education and not gender stereotyping contents. All in all, the children should be taught about this issues early enough so that they don’t develop the mentality of gender stereotype in their entire lives. This can be done by their parents, teachers or any other person who May interact with them and influence their lives.

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